It’s hard to imagine a more gratuitous or, well, stupid, assault on animals than trophy-hunting in Africa. Yet, incredibly the New York Times has managed to run an opinion column that supports just that.

In the column, “Blame War, Not Safaris,” the author Louisa Lombard, a post-doc fellow at UC-Berkeley, draws a bead on animal rights activists, arguing that they “are missing the mark when they shame safari hunters and their hosts.”

Lombard focuses on the war-torn Central African Republic where Christians and Muslim fighters are having at it. She says the battle there is “not about white people at all.” (Somehow I find it hard to believe that any conflict in “post-colonial” Africa has “nothing to do with white people,” but OK, if she says so.)

“… attention paid to a few white hunters is at best a distraction from the more important matter of examining the roots of the crisis of political legitimacy that is ripping the country apart,” she writes.

If this war has nothing to do with the West, then why is it imperative that we shut up about trophy-hunting and “examine the roots of the crisis?”

The author argues that the hunting lodges catering to rich whites are actually a positive in the Central African Republic.

“The history of the safaris in the Central African Republic does bear the mark of colonial-era racial inequalities and it is marred by smuggling and the poor enforcement of conservation rules. But in its current regulated form, the sport is helping to maintain islands of relative peace in remote parts of the country.”

I’m all for peace, but really? Killing antelopes for peace?

It seems to me, there’s probably nothing that can be done about the war in the Republic of Central Africa, but we can do something about are the insanely rich Americans spending tens of thousands of dollars to go kill animals overseas, many of whom are endangered.

Of course, it’s not just clueless white hunters who are decimating wildlife populations in Africa. There are other causes including habitat loss for livestock production.

For me, there are few things more heart-breaking than species extinction. And why we Americans would want to put our mits on the scale tipping toward disaster is beyond me. But I guess that’s what we do. According to an editorial which ran in a National Geographic online newsletter published last year, some 60 percent of lions killed for “sport” in Africa are shipped to the U.S. as trophies.

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —


If you’ve ever tried to talk a relative into going vegan you know how bad family arguments can get. Sometimes even just preparing and serving vegan food to a relative can devolve into an unpleasantry: “I’m leaving!” “That’s fine.” “Fuck you.” Slam. Screeching tires.

Out of desperation I once offered my brother $50 to watch “Forks Over Knives.” I might as well have asked him to jump over the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle. Actually, I think he’d rather try to jump over the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle than watch “Forks Over Knives.”

Then there was my friend who picked up a Vegan Outreach (VO) pamphlet from a pile of them I’d left strategically in our bathroom. No, ultimately that didn’t work either.

I even tried to convert a whole classroom of fellow students to go vegan. Well, I’ve tried that with a few classes. Basically that didn’t work as far as I could tell, although I think I heard some mumbling about trying to go vegan from a couple of people.

Still, it is possible that I was a catalyst for someone going vegan. I’ve handed out hundreds of VO leaflets and the organization says that out of a 100 leaflets you probably convince two or three to go vegan. There’s an important difference, says Vegan Outreach, between proselytizing strangers and proselytizing friends. Strangers are strangers and can often be way more open to other strangers.

But friends and family members are generally animal rights sermon-resistant. Vegan Outreach says they’re a waste of your vegan activism time.

There is one way, however, that you might get through to a family member or a friend. It’s called “Silence.” That means you NEVER mention anything vegan. You don’t talk about the animals, you don’t talk about the environment and you definitely don’t talk about health or weight loss. I repeat: you definitely don’t talk about health or losing weight.

What if they ask? Psychologist and co-author of “The Pleasure Trap,” Doug Lisle suggests really low-keying it, saying something like, “Oh, this is just something I’m trying for a while – seeing how it goes.”

A vegan friend, David, has a niece who has recently gone vegan after seeing his quiet example. The teenager had heard about veganism and was curious. She figured it must be OK, since her respected uncle was doing it.

Yes, I know it’s frustrating to simply shut up and just be a vegan, but as author Will Potter details in his book, “Green is the New Red,” industry and some government officials see that lifestyle choice as indeed quite powerful.”

Animal experimenter and advocate for the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (a federal law that has been able to reclassify some non-violent animal rights activism as “terrorism,”) Edward J. Walsh has argued that “simple acts such as choosing not to wear fur, eat meat or attend rodeos ‘quietly, but effectively, promote the dissolution of our culture.’”

Whoa! Who knew that?

I don’t think we vegans are trying to promote the “dissolution of our culture,” unless “our culture” means animal cruelty, barbecues, fast food places, “Turkey Day,” Easter egg hunts, circuses and cheese fondue.”

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —


I don’t trust yoga studios. You never know what they’ll do – turn up the heat to 110 degrees or make you stand on your head. Now a New Hampshire yoga studio has come up with something way more heinous than a simple heat wave: a chicken slaughter demonstration.

The Be Well Yoga Studio has joined with a grocer, “The Local Grocer,” to do a “chicken processing class” at Mountain Flower Farm.

Doesn’t Mountain Flower Farm and the Be Well Yoga Studio sound like the nicest places in the world? How about “The Local Grocer?” Just so sweet. Just so local.

Oh no, it’s the “it’s-fine-to-kill-them-as-long-as-you-do-it-in-the-backyard” crowd. But first make them into pets and then kill them. Sort of realizing the horror of that scenario, one urban farmer I know trades her chickens to slaughter with another urban farmer friend. Voila! Nobody’s killing their own pets.

Some bloggers have gotten wind of the yoga chicken killing plot and are asking, hey what about ahimsa, the Hindu/Buddhist/Jainist principle of “Do No Harm?” And what kind of ghoulish yoga studio are you?

I guess they just couldn’t resist the new trend: butchering classes, the rage in quite a few places.

United Poultry Concerns, a group that is, well, concerned about chickens, turkeys and other feathered friends has joined in the protest, circulating this petition. Please sign!

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —


Since the invention of drones, it was inevitable that someone would come up with a good use for them. That someone turns out to be independent journalist Will Potter who is this week’s Vicious Vegan.

Congratulations Will!

Potter may be doing the impossible – getting around the so-called “ag-gag” laws by taking aerial pictures of factory farms using unmanned drones. Cool huh?

The journalist who’s a Ted fellow and the author of “Green is the New Red,” recently did a $30,000 Kickstart plea for his drone project he’s calling “Drone on the Farm.” He was funded in just five days.

The ag-gag laws which have been passed in some eight states make it illegal to go undercover in factory farms and slaughterhouses and take pictures or make films. It seems, for now, at least, taking photos from the air might be OK.

The “Drone on the Farm” idea hasn’t been warmly received by the animal food industry with some farmers vowing to shoot the things down if they see them. An industry publication called the gizmos “The Death Star(s)” from the movie “Star Wars.”

Potter said he got the idea for DOF from an artist photographer Mishka Henner. Using already-shot publicly-available satellite photos, Henner created a powerful photo exhibt, “Feedlots.” The artist has said he enhanced the color somewhat but the details of the pictures are untouched. The result is beautifully abstract but horrifically troubling of views of giant waste lagoons caused by these facilities.

This week’s Vicious Vegan has said he doesn’t know exactly what the “Drone on the Farm” drones will see, but he allows it might not be pretty.

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —


The Wadham College food committee is this week’s winner of the Vicious Vegan Award for forcing everybody at the School to go vegan for five days a week!

How great is that?

Wadham is part of the University of Oxford. Yes, the same country that gave us the Beatles, has now given us the Wadham College Food Committee!

At first the group pondered the (somewhat wimpy) suggestion from fourth-year engineering student, James Kenna that the school go vegetarian for four days out of the week. But second-year history student Ben Szreter came to the rescue! He said that to really make a change they should go vegan five days a week!

A motion was made because, the students said, “Reducing the consumption of meat is one of the many steps needed to reduce the effects of climate change…Excessive meat consumption is harmful to the environment and it could also lead to an increased risk of certain illnesses like bowel cancer.”


OK it’s not totally a done deal. Ben told the school paper that he was feeling a little bit of heat: “Five days of vegan food may sound intimidating to students across the country, and many Wadham students I’ve spoken to have said that they would have applied to another college if this policy was in place when they were applying.”

Uh oh. The motion is going to be revisited at the next Wadham Food Committee meeting. Watch this space.

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —


Who can forget their first biology class in dissection? Numb as I was to the suffering of animals, I peeled off the rat’s skin with barely a thought. Some of us even got the idea there was something funny about messing around with the dead bodies, naming our rats and/or making them dance.

Isn’t there an ad on TV where some old man entertains the grandkids by turning chickens from the freezer into marionettes?


Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. ha…

Now you, too, (if you live in England) can play with dead animals and even make art with them.

As reported in the New York Times on Monday, classes, which are described as a combination arts and crafts and taxidermy are now offered across the pond. A four-hour lesson allows participants bring little dead mice “back to life,” by skinning them, stuffing the skins and dressing them up like dolls.

Oh yes, it’s controversial notes Times writer Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura: “For some people, the course is eccentric or downright macabre. To others, it is an opportunity to pursue a very British hobby.”

Oh those crazy Brits! (Hey, I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of Americans who wouldn’t dig something like this – a lot of Americans.)

According to the article, stuffing dead animals and dressing them up in tiny clothes was an idea of fun dating back to 19th century England — concocted by this guy, Walter Potter, the “pioneer of anthropomorphic taxidermy.” He ended up with a whole museum of dioramas: rabbits in little outfits going to school, mice in ruffles having tea parties, etc.

At the bottom of it all, of course, is the idea that animals are ours to use any way we want – either for food, entertainment, research or for art projects. It’s the old “Man is the Master of the Universe” crap and everybody else is born to serve.

One of the English “arts and crafts” students described what she was doing as a kind of a gift to the killed mice. “(It) gives them a second opportunity to be enjoyed and to be present in your life.”

Arts and crafts taxidermy teacher Margot Magpie also offers an “advanced class,” in making hats out of bird wings. And the taxidermist crafter sells hair clips and headbands festooned with preserved mice bodies. Yeah, I know, very punk or if you like, very Goth. Ghouls rock!

The dead animal art thing has been hot for quite a while now, with the used-to- be Young British Artist Damien Hirst who’s probably the most famous and definitely the most rich, selling his formaldehyde-embalmed sharks, cows and sheep for as much as $12 million each. I haven’t seen any of Hirst’s corpses.

Then you also hear about art students pulling such stunts as killing chickens in front of audiences. Maybe that’s where artist Laura Ginn got her idea of a multi-course rat dinner which she served in a white-walled New York City art gallery. Messing around with dead animals is a way to get attention. She managed to get a large article in the New York Times about the event.

Seems to me there’s a way to do art with dead animals and a way perhaps not to do it. For me, a way to do it would be the amazing guerrilla theater performance held in many cities for National Animal Rights Day which included silent black-T-shirted protesters tenderly and sometimes tearfully holding the dead bodies of chickens, birds, rats, mice, piglets, squirrels, to order to raise awareness.

Another way to do it would be Joseph Beuys’ stunning performance piece in the ‘70s, “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare,” where he walked around a gallery cradling a dead hare. As he went from picture to picture he would whisper to the animal. Yes, the work is thought to be about the impossibility of explaining anything especially art, but I think it’s also about our bond to animals.

“Even a dead animal preserves more powers of intuition than some human beings with their stubborn rationalism,” said Beuys.

There’s art (and craft) that has the potential to deaden us and art that has the potential wake us up. “To be or not to be that is the question.”

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —


One of the problems with subscribing to the New York Times is that on occasion, you end up reading it. That happened to me last Sunday as I pawed through the Sunday magazine to see there in black and white somebody writing into “The Ethicist” (the Miss Manners of moral conundrums ) about the moral conundrum of eating meat.

Since the New York Times has been talking out of both sides of its mouth on the issue I was curious to see what their high priest of right and wrong, The Ethicist, would have to say when confronted directly with the question: “Is it ethical to pay someone else to kill a (food) animal because I can’t or don’t want to know what’s involved?”

The reader who sent in the question wrote that he or she wasn’t worried about the health, religious or even the environmental reasons to not eat meat. It was just the idea of paying someone else to do the deed that troubled this reader.

Within the animal rights movement the answer is clear. Just don’t do it. Learn to like lentils and other foods that don’t involve blood.

But the New York Times is not the animal rights movement and neither is The Ethicist, Chuck Klosterman. Klosterman boiled down the reader’s question to: “Is it the process of killing animals that bothers you or the very idea?”

The Ethicist asked the reader to consider a hypothetical situation: A healthy cow is led into a solid steel box. A button is pushed and out comes steaks. Could the reader push the button? If the reader could push the button, fine, he’s not a hypocrite to eat meat. But if the reader couldn’t push the button then he probably shouldn’t eat meat.

Hummm, what does pushing a button to kill someone without seeing a thing remind you of?

The Ethicist proposes another way for the reader to access his true feelings about the animal slaughter matter:

“Watch videos of cows on YouTube for 10 minutes. After that spend another 10 minutes reading expository nonpolitical articles about cattle-slaughtering practices in North America. If you still want a burger after those 20 minutes, you no longer have to worry about this problem. You are not a hypocrite. You’re merely squeamish.”

(Note: the Ethicist doesn’t say watch YouTube videos of animal slaughter.)

Soooooo, if I feel like stealing jewelry at Nordstrom is it OK? If I feel like running over someone with my car is that OK?

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —